DELANO, Calif. (KERO) — Ahead of Wednesday's Day of Action 23ABC is taking an in-depth look at Cesar Chavez's legacy and his contributions to the day-to-day life of farmworkers across the country.
Cesar Chavez's contributions to social activism and labor laws for farmworkers are some of his biggest accomplishments and it all started with a vision.
"He had this idea that the poorest of the poor, the least educated amongst of us can take on one of the biggest and most powerful industries and prevail."
And that would slowly become a reality for a young Cesar Chavez who would become one of the most renowned labor leaders in the country, improving the working conditions and treatment of farmworkers across the country. But as his son Paul Chavez points out the journey was an uphill battle.
"Every attempt to organize farmworkers for 100 years before him, have been brutally crushed."
Chavez would use that as fuel. He established the National Farmworkers Association in 1962, which would become United Farm Workers (UFW).
The Day of Action was declared an official federal holiday back in 2014 under then-President Barack Obama. On the day people across the nation come together to focus on equality for farmworkers and all that Chavez fought for during his life here in the Central Valley. Wednesday First Lady Jill Biden will make her first visit to Kern County to honor Cesar Chavez and the Day of Action.
Several demonstrations, marches, and strikes would follow including the Delano Grape Strike of 1965 where UFW would join Filipino-American farmworkers in demanding higher wages.
Then in 1965 Chavez and a group of farmworkers would march 300 miles from Delano to Sacramento.
"As the numbers started to build and as people began to learn about the plight of farmworkers, public opinion was swayed."
But Chavez would face some backlash in the 70s when he took a strong stance against illegal immigration as he believed it hindered the collective bargaining process during strikes. His views on this caused violence on the border between the United States and Mexico and many contracts UFW would be terminated.
"With that said, his views on immigration would change throughout the years. By the late 70s things had changed," said Paul Chavez. "When he organized the union, he made sure that his organization was open to everybody and membership has always been open."
Chavez's cause would prevail despite the setback. Schools, libraries, and roadways would be among the many things named after Chavez across the country. In 2012, then-President Barrack Obama established the Cesar Chavez National Monument in Keene.
He was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom a year after his death in 1993.
UFW spokesperson Leydy Rangel says his legacy will be carried out through the generations to come.
"Decades later after his death, we're still fighting for the very rights that we started the union, which is just making sure that farmworkers and their families have dignity."
Wednesday would have been Chavez's 94th birthday. It's considered a federal commemorative holiday in many states and it's a day that First Lady Jill Biden and Governor Gavin Newsom are going to celebrate here in Kern County.
Biden is scheduled to arrive at Meadows Field Airport around 1 p.m. Wednesday. Then she will travel to Delano to visit the Forty Acres. While she's there she will meet with the Cesar Chavez Foundation, United Farm Workers, and the UFW Foundation to participate in a Day of Action. Governor Gavin Newsom and his wife will also travel to Delano to take part in the day.